I know most people will be looking forward to the new year more than ever and with that perhaps resolutions will be stronger this year. Getting fit and healthy and burning off the holiday indulgences are always popular ways to start the new year but the key is changing habits for a long term goal, rather than a fad diet or a few weeks in the gym.
From my experience over the last couple of years (since I decided to change my habits) weight is usually linked to current habits. That is, if I am fasting and exercising regularly, I will weigh at the lower end of my range, while a week off and I’ll go back to the higher weight. With that, I think it’s important to find a routine, programme or diet, that you enjoy and can live with. For me, that is 4-5 days per week fasting 18:6, eating a balanced diet and exercising 5-6 days a week. Be happy within a range and don’t stress over a few kilograms every now and again.
Ultimately, I think it’s really important to consider your happiness. What’s the point in cutting out all of one thing (for example: meat, sugar, dairy) to (potentially) live a bit longer, when you’re not going to be able to experience foods and delicacies when travelling? Or struggling every day to go for a run, when you really don’t like it. I do find it hard to exercise regularly, but I also feel good afterwards. Running I found easier to keep up when I had a coach and gym, when I was tracking my progress. However, above all, I would easily choose to play a sport with friends. In fact, I listened to a podcast by Peter Attia where they mentioned a study and badminton (or tennis/squash) improved longevity more than gym. Largely, they say, due to the social aspect of these sports.
Anyway, I just wanted to share a few tips that could help to make a few changes to begin a journey to becoming healthier and fitter.
Count your calories
Diet is 80% of your success. And it will be a few small changes that can help shift the first couple of kilos. I used MyFitnessPal for a few weeks a few years ago and I realised then why I was the weight I was. You just don’t seem to notice the little things add up. You can make a few easy gains by controlling your portions better and avoiding things like juice and beer. At one point, I was eating 10-15 dates in one go – 700-1000 calories without even realising it!!
Even when I thought I was the expert calorie counter, when I bought a weighing scale, I was again surprised at what I was eating. So, don’t get too obsessed with it, but try it and see where you can cut some portions.
Calculate the calories your body needs
You might be counting your calories and think you are eating less than you burn, but do you actually know that? This has surprised a few people I’ve spoken to about this and it’s very useful to know, so you can adjust your food intake accordingly.
Check yours here using this website: https://www.calculator.net/
It also recommends a calorie “zig-zag” method of eating so your body doesn’t get used to the lower calories and adjust the processes!
Fast 4-5 times per week
Fasting will not only help you burn fat, but it will also restrict your calories by helping to avoid snacking. Eat between 1pm and 7pm for example and you will lower the temptation to grab a biscuit before bed. 1pm-7pm eating window would be skipping breakfast (black coffee or tea allowed) and I think for most people, that is manageable. At first it might be tough, especially if you work in an office where tea and biscuits are the staple of a morning. I’d also recommend getting your workout in towards the end of your fast. That worked for me as I worked evenings usually. It does make that first meal so much more tasty (usually oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit).
I use an app called “Zero” by Dr. Peter Attia who is someone that I am following very closely with regards to health and longevity. The app is basically a timer, but it tracks your progress and helps to keep the motivation up! Experiment with fasting and what works for you, but remember, when you’re in the fast, 0 calories – not even sugar in your tea.
Adjust your diet
Don’t diet, adjust your diet. It’s about improving your decisions and making more healthy choices. Skip an ice cream, have no sugar in your drinks, no beer until the weekend. Small things that added up will make a difference to your long term health. I still eat everything. Living in Malaysia I can’t avoid oily, sugary foods. However at home, I cook mostly vegan and using fresh ingredients. So that will balance it out. I’ll occasionally get a pizza or KFC delivered, but they have to be in the minority if we want to be healthier.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for some advice on getting healthy, which is great. The most important thing is doing what makes you happy and I think a few small adjustments can improve your overall lifestyle, which in turn will (hopefully) make you happier. Don’t go for a crash diet or smash the gym this January, make some small changes and think of where you will be in the long term.
Happy New Year and I hope 2021 brings you everything you wish for!